Author's note: This is an updated retelling of the Summer Break, which I decided to dust off and retell

German Flare Gun

from the perspective of different characters that were featured in Ellie Lambert and Short Hoggers

Also based on a series of nightmares I had.

Ellie Lambert was dead; as dead as a doornail/as a nail in a coffin/as a tent-peg/as a mouse in a dustpan/as a shotten herring, and all those other stone-dead idioms. She had died in her sleep shortly after midnight on Thursday, June 21-- the same time summer officially kicks off with the summer solstice. That fact was true, verified by the Rennes Police report with a death certificate signed by the chief medical examiner at a Rennes morgue. In case you’re wondering why it was Rennes taking on this CSI case and not Swanwick, it was because, besides being Swanwick’s closest and populous neighbor to the west, it also had a highly trained forensic staff equipped with the most sophisticated tools of modern science.

On the cause of death, it was determined to be massive cerebral hemorrhaging caused by an intracranial aneurysm (also called a brain aneurysm or an intracranial). Yeah, all natural causes, in other words, a much more plausible explanation than the one proposed by Vanessa’s youngest sister Amanda. That what I had shot just outside the front door to the guest house wasn’t a hallucination or a sick ghastly joke by some of Vanessa’s Goth friends, but a “Double.” In other words, an ectoplasmic astral body that could detach itself during deep sleep, and sally forth in animal shape or something even more monstrous… kind of like a werewolf, only without the painful, embarrassing body contortions and sprouting of fur and fangs. Not a curse cast by some gypsy fortune teller or a devil, but your darker animal nature made incarnate.

A little about Amanda, by the way; she’s the exact opposite of Vanessa—small, blonde with a delicate frame made even more wispy by her total vegetarian diet. She also consumes fantasy and horror comics by the trunkful as well as classic weird and fantastic literature, one of which she showed me the werewolf/astral projection example titled “The Camp of the Dog” by Algernon Blackwood. She also showed me a slew of information from astral bodies to thought forms on the Internet including stuff her various pen pals posted on these true tales/let’s not meet weirdos, monsters, etc. websites. One of these caught my attention since it described an encounter with an entity rather similar to the one I had witnessed.

Amanda even called up this chatty Nisei friend of hers on Skype to get her permission for me to post up her experience on Reddit; all during this enthusiastic two hour exchange, Vanessa kept giving her Lil’ sis the stink eye as well making unladylike snorting noises like a horse. She would later confess to me that she greatly disapproved of her tween sister being on those weirdie-infested story sites and she thought that Olivia was overreacting to something her older sisters told her and quite possibly even making all it up just to gain publicity and trophy points for her web page. However, she assured me, I wasn’t one to make stuff up, and unlike Amanda, who’s a bit of a scatterbrain, I seemed to be a generally sensible and rational individual.

I don’t know what to believe now. I don’t know if what Olivia and I had experienced could simply be chalked up to hormone-induced hysteria and an overactive imagination. Of course, it could have been just someone punking us both, and somewhere on YouTube, there are video clips of the actual pranks. However, as I read Olivia’s story, trying to imagine that moment several years back, I couldn’t help but feel a little shiver at the dark sinister forces intruding upon our small mundane lives.

Summer Break

Post by Olivia Satoui

Date of Original Post

July 28, 2006

Sometimes you may have really horrible days descending without any hint of warning. You wake up with a strong sense of foreboding, and you know that things will turn sour the moment you step outside. And yet on other days, everything seems to be going great until a sinkhole suddenly opens up while you were rollerblading or a small plane crash-lands into your backyard, taking out your tree house.

As was typically the case, this particular descent into the abyss started out as a pretty decent day. I had just turned 14 that July and had also hit a growth spurt, going from a measly 4'8 to a petite 5'3". Next fall was high school where hopefully I won't get dumped in the special self-esteem class for sufferers of extreme shyness and other awkward geekiness. But I wasn't thinking about that at that moment. I was more concerned with the upcoming camping trip and how I was going to spend it.

As my dad pulled the station wagon over into a spot on to the main street, I looked over. Through the bug-flecked wind shield, I could see a crowd of fidgety kids and their parents. Piles of luggage were haphazardly stacked in the broad college parking lot, and still people were streaming in all directions. Pushing open the door, I got out, while Dad opened the back and began unloading the essential stuff I needed for my two week stay at Camp Kim-Tu: plenty of light summer clothes, sun lotion, DEET bug repellent and books and sketch pads for when I wasn’t doing entries and writing exercises.

Picking up my sleeping bag and back pack, I hurried after my dad across the street just as the first of the college Geology buses pulled up near the excited crowd.

It was a fine weekday morning and a cool breeze was blowing from the Pacific. It felt good, but I knew this refreshing breeze wasn't going to last once we reached the mountains, and by the time we got to the Willow Creek Writer’s Camp, it was going to be stifling hot and muggy.

A few minutes later, I was aboard, my gear secured in the metal rack above my seat. Up in front, kids were already seated, chatting away, reading while listening on some iPod or jabbing away at some noisy handheld game. I, on the other hand, sat quietly, feeling a bit miffed that I missed out on the good seats. However, my glumness died away as soon I started perusing my newly purchased paper, all a while trying to ignore the heavy thumps of suitcases being heaved into the lower compartments. I was just glad I’d stowed my delicate camera and binoculars in my back pack and not in my suitcase, which had already been buried into the massive collection of baggage.

Leafing absentmindedly through the pages of the usual weighty, multi-verse matters and elven/celebrity scandals, I found myself wondering about what the two weeks at Camp Kim-Tu would be like.

My three older, triplet sisters, being the wicked brat witches that they were, teased me for weeks before my trip saying that the woods were full of hungry bears, Sasquatches and wendigos and that the cabins were nothing but old trapper shacks with hardly any intact doors and tattered screen windows with the only ‘furniture’ being several grimy, urine stained, mouse-infested mattresses. Naturally, I didn’t believe them upon seeing the photos they took of their enjoyable stay there. Even though they were right about the cabins being a bit rustic and outdated, they were fairly clean and well-kept, plus there wasn't an animal pest in sight—big or minuscule. But it was what they told me afterwards that scared me even more than any horror movie or scary campfire story out there… because the incident actually occurred in my hometown and would spawn a new urban legend.

I grew up in Curtisville, by the way, and it wasn't much of a tourist mecca despite having some coastal hiking trails and the World’s Tallest Totem Pole right behind the Safeway; although there were a few historical buildings such as the A&L Feed store and the former creamery, much of the architecture was blue-collar bland and generically suburban. If you wanted to experience supernatural horror here, you had to go see it at the movie theater or go to the nearest video rental.

Before the Infamous Gray Man Incident(s) of 2003, nobody in the wider world gave a flying rodent’s arse about this unincorporated folksy community. There were no strange storms nor killer freezing fog or high otherworldly carnage; just the latest bureaucratic and environmental protest stuff.

Six years ago, the year was 1999. I was eight years old while my sisters were ten and were mischievous as hell (which wasn't at all surprising seeing as they were probably half Siamese cat). While most of my interest revolved around the TV and playing with my secondhand toys, my sisters’ interests revolved around playing amateur detectives and trying to figure out who or what was responsible for all of those disappearances among the local animal population. Lately, there had been a rash of missing pets and poultry. Whether it was one of theft or just typical running off during the July 4th fireworks, nobody had a clue. They were just simply gone; there was no trace of any fur, feather or blood even, nor were there any footprints or signs of a struggle you typically find with a varmint raid.

Of course, there were the usual complaints to the police, various residents pointing their fingers at the usual suspects--the teenage pranksters and budding criminal masterminds (my sisters included), the local hard-rock garage band (particularly the one my albino cousin--Yukiko--started), the Goths, Emos, Scene, and Stoners as well as any foreign emigrant, especially the Chalmers.

Just about everyone in town thought the missionary family from Australia was especially strange for not only were they all blonde and met every “normality” standard from the 1950s, but also they were always on the happy side, and so damned perfect with their Ned Flanders-sort of Christian white bread lifestyle. They were even weird rumors swirling around that the Chalmers and their seven kids were actually aliens all genetically modified to closely resemble (their cultural idea of) the people they were trying to convert.

Wait? What? Seven? For those who closely follow the State of Jefferson newsreels… or this very blog, you all must be thinking those same exact words (though not in exact order). But didn't the police find the remains of only six kids along with their parents in their burnt-out mansion? Yeah, those were the ones that people knew about, the ones that were officially registered as full citizens despite our government's long-standing aversion toward large emigrant families.

As my "weird sisters" gleefully explained to me as they helped me pack, according to local gossips--there had been a seventh child--a girl to be exact. Very little was known of her except that she was supposed to be an identical sibling to the Chalmers Triplets, thus making them quadruplets. However, whatever illegal procedure that helped perfect the Chalmers didn’t mesh well with this particular offspring, and what eventually resulted was a creature-- grotesque in appearance and ravenous in appetite. Instead of doing the most sensible thing—destroying the beast and alerting the authorities—they decided to lock up the fourth sibling in a nearby bomb shelter and feed her a platter of raw meat once a week. Maybe they were hoping to starve the monster or at least, keep it to a manageable size.

However, their efforts were to no avail for within months, the creature began growing at an incredible rate. It also sprouted antlers from the top of its bestial head and long black talons burst from its spidery fingers. Leathery bat-like wings unfurled from its gnarled back while bristly, spiky hair and feathers sprouted all over its hunched body. Its eyes grew huge and red as it broke out of its prison and made good its escape into the dark forest area around town, venturing forth to devour domestic animals before eventually turning its murderous attention on various townsfolk, including its entire family.

At this point of the story, I was rolling my eyes. It was sounding so much like that of another infamous mutant misanthrope who was currently terrorizing local residents in the Southern New Jersey area. Not surprising, considering my sisters’ story coincided with a Jersey Devil documentary on Animal Planet. As was often the case in monster sightings, people were either exaggerating about what they saw due to panic and shock or they were either strung out on drugs or drunk at the time… or like my sisters, possessed with an overactive imagination.

“So what you’re saying… all those mysterious deaths and disappearances two years ago were caused by a monster?”

“Actually, two monsters to be exact,” Mizaki the Know-it-All explained. “The Far Liath who caused the freak storms and thick fog…”

I looked at them skeptically with folded arms.

“And the Chalmers’ mutated seventh daughter who ate all those animals, then all those Jehovah’s Witnesses before ripping her family to shreds and then setting the house on fire. And they say she’s still out there.”

“Yeah, sure. Uh-huh,” I said with a suspicious frown, “And I suppose this Frankenstein kid also killed those two girls on Azalea Ave. as well?”

“Yeah, well… that was due to lightning,” said Izumi, frowning. “Said so in the paper.”

“Weird though,” said Mizaki, shaking her head. “How that Woodley kid got half-melted into the ground while Constance wound up in the power lines… and they never did find that Constance girl’s left hand.”

“Maybe the Chalmers’ Monster took it,” Kyoto chuckled. “Probably using it as a Glory Hand Lamp right now.”

I groaned loudly. “Oh, Gods! Let’s not go into this crap again! The Chalmers never had a seventh kid—mutated or otherwise, and whoever whacked them and every other missionary in town was probably motivated by anti-Christian propaganda.”

“Okay, Smartass,” said Kyoto testily, “how do you explain all the shredded human remains they all found in the backyard bunker?”

“Huh?” I said, startled. “What ‘shredded human remains?’”

Apparently, the grown-ups (my parents included) thought it was best to avoid telling their kids all the sickening details about what exactly occurred on that tumultuously stormy night. Just that the Chalmers were all part of a radical religious cult that had committed mass murder/suicide and that was it. End of story. However, secrets were hard to keep in this small town, and some people were quite willing to spill the beans even when they signed a secrecy oath with the FBI.

Without even answering my question, my sisters started pulling out sheaves of newspaper from underneath the sofa cushions and dumping them onto the living room table. All of them were copies of various California newspapers. I looked at the Union Town: Times-Standard lying on top: BLOODY MASS MURDER SCENE NEAR ARSON HOMICIDE SITE. My mouth dropped open as I flipped to the next paper and read REAL LIFE SAWYER FAMILY? Then another: VICTIMS DESCRIBED AS “PUREED.” Still another: GRISLY CURTISVILLE SLAYINGS RAISES QUESTIONS—WAS ONE OR MORE OF THE CHALMERS INVOLVED? The next one made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck and I was chilled to the bone. UNKNOWN CURTISVILLE “CRYPTID” MENACES NEIGHBORING COMMUNITIES—CONNECTION WITH RECENT OCT. KILLINGS? Then this one from May of last year: MYSTERY DEEPENS OVER DISAPPEARANCES OF FIVE LOCAL GIRLS AT FAIRE HAVEN MIDSUMMER PARTY—RESIDENTS BLAME CURTISVILLE MONSTER AS CULPRIT.

Well, that’s great, I thought, flipping after page after page of fear and intrigue. Not only is it expanding its range, it’s not even waiting for the people to step outside. Let’s hope it’s not smart enough to use public transport or we campers are majorly toasted.

I glanced up, half-expecting to see my sisters grinning maliciously or hearing a snide warning along the lines of ‘Have a good time and don’t let any bears or boogeymen bite you on your way to the pot!’ Instead I noticed their demeanor had suddenly changed. Normally jaunty and joking, they had become serious and solemn.

I heaved a deep sigh and rolled my eyes ceilingward. “Let me guess,” I groaned. “Several people have disappeared in the Willow Creek area, and there’s talk that the Curtisville monster got them too?”

My sisters looked at each other.

Finally Izumi spoke. “Well, no… there’s no other monster in Willow Creek to worry about… other than Big Foot. We didn’t quite tell you everything about those two girls that got hit by lightning last October.”

“Yeah, you told that police couldn’t find Constance Greene’s left hand,” I said, interrupting. “So I figured you either have the hand squirreled away in a pickle jar somewhere or you know someone else who has it… most likely, Yukiko, since he’s into that Goth-Metal, Dark stuff.”

“Well, we didn’t actually find the hand,” said Mizaki quietly.

I considered this. “Oo-kay, you saw a dog or a crow carry it off… so you decided to follow it?”

“No, we didn’t go anywhere that night,” said Kyoto severely, “because it was rainy, dark and we had to be all in bed by nine…”

“And it was also a school night,” Izumi quickly chimed in. “Thursday it was… the 22nd.”

“Oh, for crying out loud!” Kyoto flung her hands up in frustration. “What difference does it make what specific god’s name for that day/night of the week? Everyone was in bed fast asleep… when it all happened!”

“Well, what did happen?” I asked desperately. “Besides all that weird crap that was going on Azalea and Hewitt Rd.?”

“Izumi heard it first,” Kyoto went on, plunking herself down in a chair. “Woke us up, saying that one of the cats was outside the window wanting to come in… which didn’t make a whole lot of sense since the window was pretty high off the ground and there wasn’t anything for a cat to climb up on. Even though me and Mizaki knew both cats were in the laundry room asleep, we still got up to check it out—”

“And that’s when you saw the thing crawling around?” I exclaimed, interrupting again.

Izumi shook her head. “We didn’t find nothin’. No prints, scratches. Nothin’.” Her tone turned to indignation as she eyed the other two. “I’m surprised I heard anything at all with all the hippopotamus snoring that was going on.”

“Hippopotamus, my butt!” snapped Kyoko. “I’ll have you know--!”

Mizaki sighed wearily. “Augh… just finish the damn story already.”

“Yeah, okay,” said Kyoto resignedly. “Eventually we decided it was just the wind blowing some twigs and other rubbish against the glass. Yet as soon as we all hit the sack and turned out the light, we all heard it—tapping. Not random tapping, but tapping with a pattern to it.” She took a pen from her jean pocket and rapped on the arm of the chair: Two—Four. Four—Three.

Tensely, I watched.

Kyoto rapped again: Two—Four. Four—Three.

I turned and noted the blanched faces of Izumi and Mizaki, and then turned back to look at Kyoto’s tense expression. I was floored—they were absolutely not making this ghost stuff up. They were actually scared. My adventurous, tomboy, critter-catching, devil-may-care sisters were now a bunch of lily-livered ninnies. It was shocking, absolutely shocking!

Before I could say another word, Kyoto tapped out the signal a third and fortunately final time: Two—Four. FOUR—THREE.

“Three times we heard it,” she went on, “and when we pulled open the curtain and looked out a second time, there was something looking back. A face was pressed up against the glass. It was pitch-black, but we could see still see enough because it was pale-gray and luminous-looking, but I knew who it was—it was Jane Woodley’s face. No one else in town had a big-eyed, pudgy baby face with a curly, cropped really short hairdo.”

Kyoto’s intense dislike of Jane Woodley was quite understandable. She was a dwarfish, rather unpleasant born again twit of a seventh-grader with a fanatical streak. Most her time was spent snooping around, trying to find out secrets about her fellow classmates and close neighbors, and trying to browbeat and blackmail people to join her tiny strait-laced, fun-stifling alliance, even going as far as to spread malicious gossip. Fortunately, no one believed her since she was a well-known trouble-maker with various behavioral problems. Recently, she got expelled for trying to use a brassbound copy of the Holy Lamb Book as a deadly weapon against some students who had disagreed with her views. She also reeked badly of BO and also had a severe case of acne. Not pretty, especially when she was invading your personal space, trying to convince you were in desperate need of a Dose of the Lamb God’s Good Wholesome Lovin.’ Oh yeah, and she was constantly trying to speak to us in really horrible Japanese. Eventually, it got so bad that we didn’t bother trying to correct her anymore. We all decided to ignore her completely, hoping that maybe she would just get bored and bother someone for a change.

Well, she did eventually leave, but not on her own accord, and now she was haunting my sisters, although at the time, they probably didn’t know she had just had her mortal coil severed in a rather dramatic and violent fashion.

“It remained me of raw bread dough,” Kyoto continued on, “soft and pale as a mushroom and then these two hands appeared below this thing’s face. The right one was definitely Jane’s, being all puffy with short, stubby fingers, but the left didn’t belong at all… it was long with slim fingers and I recognized it immediately as belonging to that Constance chick.”

I was stunned. “What? How?”

“Because she had syndactyly,” Mizaki blurted out, causing me to jump. “She showed me both her hands when I was at the dog park once; the last two fingers were fused together on each hand.”

“Well, she was probably embarrassed,” said Izumi quietly, “plus Jane was trying to be all chummy and nicey-nice with you at the time, and you know how really judgmental and gossipy she was.”

“Yeah, I remember,” I muttered, before quickly changing the subject. “So what happened next?”

Izumi immediately took over from Kyoto. “So there she was her weird ugly mug starting at us like one of those Oiwa ghost lanterns. Then Kyoto shot at it with a Leipzig flare gun, shattering the pane, and then in a wink it was gone.”

My mouth dropped open as I looked back at Kyoto. “Leipzig flare gun? Where the hell did you get a powerful caliber flare gun at?”

Kyoto smiled smugly as she gave a slight shrug. “Won it off a raffle at the Library Sale in Terrapin Station.”

I snorted disgustedly with a roll of eyes (a typical Satoui family characteristic).

I knew about the flare gun incident since I awakened from a deep sleep by the whistling bang of the flare bursting the window, followed shortly by both my parents yelling, and then the sudden burst of sirens as a couple of police cruisers pulled up.

My sister nearly got arrested that night for firing off a flare gun in a residential setting and for possible arson/murder charges. But she got let go with a citation, when witnesses came forward saying that she wasn’t anywhere near the Chalmers mansion when the blaze took place.

Up until now, I thought it was just a regular, run-of-the-mill flare gun, and the burglar was one of the Jane’s skank toadies snooping around, trying to come up with some dirt on us.

As usual, I was always the last one to know because I was too busy focusing on my goals on being a geeky overachiever, and trying to distance myself from my sisters’ mischievous and prankish nature.

Well, going back to Izumi’s account of that infamous night.

“Kyoto decided she was going to thrash that Jane or whoever that freak was for giving us a scare like that. So she told Mizaki to keep watch and handed her the Leipzig. Then she took a baseball bat while I took a fire poker and then we hurried outside.

“There were a whole bunch of dogs in our yard.”

“ mean like hellhounds?” I had been watching a lot of Buffy the Vampire Slayer around that time, and the fifty-fourth episode involved hellhounds attacking a senior prom.

“Nah,” Izumi shook her head, “just regular dogs. Here a dog, there a dog. Everywhere a dog, dog… and they were all chasing something around the house. We just caught a glimpse of it as the dogs were mobbing and chewing at it. It was like a fat headless human made out of soiled rags and jellyfish slime… really gross-looking. Well, we were so peeved by this creepy in what we thought was just a costume that we decided to make a citizen’s arrest. We must have run around that house like six or seven times. It was like something straight out a Looney Tunes cartoon, and by then Mom, Dad and most of the neighbors were out, wondering if we had finally gone off the deep end…”

“So did the dogs finally get the Thing?” I asked anxiously.

Kyoto’s eyes narrowed as she shrugged. “I don’t know. They all ran off into the bushes just as the cops were showing up.”

Damn, I thought sullenly. Missed the whole thing because I was so snail-slow at getting out of bed!

“But we did we find something interesting,” said Izumi brightly.

With a tense frown, Mizaki dug her hand into her sweater pocket and pulled out a piece of paper. After carefully smoothing it out, she handed it to me.

“Kyoto found this stuck to the bottom of her shoes. Don’t know what it is exactly, but it looks like something related to hoodoo.”

I sat rigid and still, looking at the heavily creased and crumpled photo showing five teenage girls hovering mid-air in front of a ruined wall, their faces just blurry smears; just as I was sitting dead still, right now on that crowded noisy bus, staring at that damn photo that had just slid out of the comic section of my newspaper into my lap. I felt cold chills creeping over me like hoarfrost, because I knew Mizaki had locked up that photo up in her desk after she had shown it to me. I saw her put the key in her pants pocket, and she never once took it out while my luggage was packed up—ready to go.

And you know what I found most frightening about the picture now. Something that caused me to get that chilling feeling that something was very wrong and it was only going to get a whole hell of a lot worse.

There were now only four girls in that photo.

“So what do you think?” Vanessa asked, matter-of-factly.

I shrugged as I stared at the screen with a puzzled frown. “It’s weird,” I finally replied, “like the Marx Bros. meet H. P. Lovecraft.”

“So you think she’s a flake then?”

“Of course she’s not a flake!” Amanda suddenly exclaimed, looking irately up from her iPad. “I know it sounds crazy to you two, but Olivia does have three identical sisters who verify that they all saw the same gray headless specter-whatever!”

“Well, you’re just a gullible thirteen-year-old,” Vanessa reminded her. “And you’re not even supposed to be on those creepy story websites!”

“Hey, you’re on Tumblr and 4chan!” Amanda pointed out accusingly.

“I just troll there, okay?”

“Hey, I was just wondering?” I suddenly interrupted. “Did Olivia ever mention in an update if the police ever found that Constance girl’s left hand?”

The answer to that question would come a few minutes later in the form of bloodcurdling scream. It shattered the still night air of the mayor’s residence, causing all three of us to bolt upright then scramble downstairs in the direction of the spacious living room/bar/lounge. Mayor Desrosiers lay half-supported by her husband, limp as a rag doll, her face livid with the eyes bulging horribly.

“It was in the pile of unopened presents,” the small bespectacled man muttered, struggling to hold the tall woman up. “The dog… Bentley… was sniffing and pawing at it. We heard scratching… thought it was another small animal... a mouse or hamster. She finally decided to open it.”

All three of us slowly turned to regard the spilled contents of a decorative hat box that had been tied with a satin ribbon printed with yellow smiley faces. At first I saw nothing, until Vanessa shook out the crumpled sheets of tissue paper and gold wrapping. Then something fell out and landed on the tiled floor, and lay clearly visible in the moonlight. Something like a dried dead tarantula, only a tarantula didn’t have five legs or long filthy nails, like chicken talons. Its shriveled, blackened digits clutched a torn and dirty photo, like the one mentioned in the story showing those girls hovering in space in front of what looked like an old stone wall, blurry watery smears for faces. Yet instead of four lost souls like in the story, there were only three visible.

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